Community Spotlight: PeacePlayers 

Sept 3, 2023 – By NBA Draft Room

“Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope, where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than governments in breaking down racial barriers. It laughs in the face of all types of discrimination.”

– Nelson Mandela (from the PeacePlayers website)

PeacePlayers is an international nonprofit that uses basketball as a tool to “unite divided communities through sport.” Founded in 2001 by Sean Tuohey, PeacePlayers grew from roots in Northern Ireland to South Africa, then Israel, The West Bank, Cyprus and eventually around the world. 

Matt Jamison shows the way

Anyone who’s been around the game of basketball has experienced the deep connection, crossing all social and racial boundaries, that this beautiful game provides. Bringing kids together on the court can foster respect and deep friendships among seeming adversaries and create young leaders who help bring about peace in divided communities. Basketball is more than a game; it is an activity that builds bonds of camaraderie and respect. 

Through a variety of programs, including Peace League Programs for ages 8-12 and Leadership Development Programs for ages 13-18, PeacePlayers channels the positive power of basketball into areas that need it most. The young people that go through these programs become peace advocates in their communities. The program also develops the leadership skills of local coaches and program staff through trainings, internships and mentorships. 

“Through basketball programming, peace education, and leadership development, PeacePlayers empowers youth to build peaceful and equitable societies. Our network of young leaders are changing communities around the globe.”
– PeacePlayers Website

PeacePlayers in the United States

In 2008 PeacePlayers began work in New Orleans until a 2017 partnership with Nike expanded the PeacePlayers programs to different regions of the U.S. PeacePlayers is now having a positive impact for youth in Detroit, Baltimore, Chicago, Brooklyn and Los Angeles with a focus on addressing the inequities that BIPOC communities face. They aim to make their programs local-lead and self-sustaining so the positive impacts can carry-on long into the future. 

Women-Led Programs

PeacePlayers also brings a focus to gender equality, with women holding key executive and director-level positions in the organization. The Co-Executive Directors of the global programs are both women, along with the Executive Director of the South Africa program.

Sally Nnamani, Co-Executive Director of the U.S. programs, joined PeacePlayers after her own successful basketball career and a time working at the Office of the Permanent Representative of the International Chamber of Commerce to the United Nations. She now “leads the strengthening and scaling of PeacePlayers programs across five markets [and] co-leads key institutional partnership engagement with stakeholders such as Nike, NBPA, and NBA teams.” Super impressive! 

Additionally, in Detroit and Brooklyn, other women in power hold the directorial and managerial positions. In Brooklyn, women make up 78% of the staff!

Stories of Impact

There are a huge number of stories on their website about the impact the program has for individuals and communities around the world. One I found especially moving was the story of Thandeka Thusi overcoming adversity in Umlazi West, South Africa. Check out her story and some of the others on their Our Stories page. I promise you’ll be inspired!

And once inspired, please give your support in a tangible way by donating to PeacePlayers. As someone who came up in the nonprofit world, I can tell you firsthand that even small donations are deeply meaningful and supportive. If you can go big, even better!

Thanks for reading!

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